Subject:Modern Chinese nephrite jade ink dish (tray)
Posted By: Super Sat, Nov 28, 2020
I normally would not bother to post any modern jade pieces in this forum but the ink dish posted here piqued my interest. Around 2006, I picked up several Chinese jade ink dishes (trays) as study pieces from China in very reasonable prices. The Chinese dealer appeared to know the difference between nephrite pieces and soft stone pieces and he described and labeled them as such. The texture of my jade ink dish posted here looks very similar to those that were posted by Moon in this thread. Yet there are some subtle differences, IMHO:
(1) In the top and bottom picture of his ink dish, there appear to be quite a few white spots all over its bottom. I do not know what caused them but if they were from normal contacts with other surfaces it sat on, that may not be a good sign because nephrite has a hardness of about 5.5 - 6.5 and should not be easily scratched from normal contact since it is harder than metal. Therefore, it is possible that his piece may be made with softer material such as serpentine or xiu yan jade (xiu yu) but only further testing can confirm this;
(2) It also bothers me that there is a lack of luster on his piece and there are a lot of translucent areas especially around its edges. He can try to rub some Vaseline on it and see if that would bring out any luster. Vaseline would not make a piece more lustrous unless the piece was originally being polished correctly. A nephrite piece should have more luster on its surface than his piece shown here. Of course, the pictures may not reflect its actual look or color.
Any way, all my three pieces of jade ink dishes, after testing their S.G. and MOH hardness, their material were confirmed to be nephrite, probably inferior Mt. Kunlun nephrite jade based on their color, texture and quality. The puzzled part is how old are my three jade ink dishes (would post picture of other two pieces if there are enough interest)?
Based on this thread posted by me as a jade novice in 2008:
"I am simply trying to show once again nephrite is scarce and is not cheap. According to the article "The Jade Stone of Heaven" published in the September, 1987 issue of National Geographic, during the 80s it was both difficult and expensive to find nephrite for making jade fakes. I do not know if this shortage of nephrite jades become better in the 90s and the 2000s."
My Modern Chinese nephrite jade ink dish posted here is about 14 cm x 11 cm x 3 cm and weighs 554 gram (about 1 lb 3.8 oz.) That means it would take 1 kg or more nephrite to carve this piece. Even with lesser quality nephrite jade, to carve something hollow like an ink dish with genuine nephrite, is not CHEAP or profitable, even in the 70s or 80s. Therefore I believe my ink dish could be done between 40s - early 60s when nephrite material was still readily available and labor was cheap. Opinions?
Interestingly, during my jade collecting and seeking journey, I found that to find any regular sized jade bowls or cups that were made with either nephrite or jadeite were extremely difficult unless you were willing to pay sometime exorbitant prices. I once saw a jade bowl (in size of a regular small rice bowl) that was made of beautiful dark green nephrite jade but I hesitated and was outbid. How I wish I could have bought a jade bowl that was made of nephrite! The reason for the difficulty to obtain bowls that were made of genuine nephrite jade is because (1) It wastes a lot of material to make anything hollow, like a jade bowl or cup; (2) It is extremely labor intensive and mistake can be made and ruin the whole bowl.
Case in point, a pair of mutton-fat Hetin nephrite jade bowls made during the Qing Emperor era, just material alone costs 5000 taels at the time(about 37.8 gram vs 31.10 gram per troy ounce) of silver, that was equivalent to about 6,075 troy ounces of silver. With current silver spot of US $22.81 per troy ounce, material cost of these two jade bowls would cost about US $138,570 at the time. Just polishing of this pair of jade bowls alone took about one year. Now that may explain why indeed it can be difficult or expensive to find any jade bowls that were made of good nephrite or jadeite.
If anybody who has any regular sized or large jade bowls (nephrite or jadeite), please post their pictures here so we can enjoy them. Thanks.